PITTSBURGH — Steelers linebacker Mark Robinson wants to play. But the rookie linebacker has only been active in two games this season, and that has afforded him to buy some time and learn from veterans. With Myles Jack questionable for Sunday’s game matchup against the Panthers, it could be an opportunity for Robinson to step into the limelight.
“He’s always ready and always working,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s been one of those guys that’s a healthy inactive. Oftentimes young guys fall into that category but not due to lack of work or continually preparing themselves. We’ll see how we divide the labor up.”
Robinson, through his hard-hitting style displayed in the preseason, developed a bit of a folk hero persona around Pittsburgh’s fanbase. However, Robinson doesn’t embrace that status. Why? He used an old Nick Saban saying by calling the compliments ‘rat poison’. For a guy in his position, Robinson sees himself in a spot where he has to simply work and be patient for his opportunity. The outside noise distracts him from all of that.
“I try to be blind to it, man,” Robinson said. “That’s rat poison. It’s what we play for, for people to love us, but if I don’t get focused and I play badly, where will those fans be at?”
As a young player, Mark Robinson is being mentored by Brian Flores, Myles Jack, and others. With two inside linebackers scheduled to be free agents, Robinson could have an opportunity over the offseason. But maybe that opportunity comes as soon as Sunday for Robinson to make an impact. Whenever the bell tolls for him to be called upon, Robinson will be ready to play.
“I’m not anxious, but I’m getting prepared for the moment,” Robinson said. “I want to show I have what it takes to be here. For a lot of people, this is a game, but for me this is rare, this is what I do for a living. It hits different when an opportunity comes your way. You know, we pray we can go up and go do it, baby. We live for it.”
Robert Spillane and Devin Bush would get the start in case Jack can not go. Robinson, however, would be the main backup and have to fill in at a moment’s notice. Flores has kept Robinson ready to go just in case the opportunity does come his way. In his mind, this is not ‘redshirt year’ for Robinson to just learn. Robinson has to be ready whenever possible.
“Since I was a kid I dreamed of opportunities like this,” Robinson said. “I’m sure other guys did too, but just to be one of the guys that really got that shot, it’s time to put in work.”
He noted the phrase redshirt year is not how Flores talks about this year. All of it is about immediacy, and that mindset could pay off if Robinson is thrown into action against a stout Panthers rushing attack. For the hard-hitting rookie, whenever the rookie knocks, he’ll be ready to kick the door down.